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Which would you choose--a 36" rangetop or higher BTU on 30"?

I have a dilemma and am looking at two completely different options to replace an existing range. We currently have a 20 year old Jenn-Air dual fuel downdraft that is 30". Although we have had no problems with it, it is going because I want to install new countertops (and it is starting to show its age visually). My guess is the highest power burner is maybe 12K to 14K with smaller burners in the 8K range. They are all open burners, and all will maintain a really good simmer. Because we live in the cold and snowy north, we actually use the grill on top a couple times a month during the winter months. I also have a separate wall oven so oven size isn't a very big concern for me.

I have two very different options I am deciding between and am trying to decide which is the best for me.

Option A is a Bluestar or American Range Performer with all of the associated firepower. These would be 30" models. Option B is a 36" Aga Legacy I found on clearance as a floor model. We have figured out how to manage the logistics of each option, so that is not the issue. I've read pretty favorable comments from users of all of these ranges. My problem is what really is the best choice for us. Aesthetics and performance both come into play here.

Option A has four burners with two really powerful burners (either two 22K or 25K depending on if I go with the Bluestar RNB or the American Range Performer.) But, I wonder if I really need this much power. These have huge ovens with a ceramic broiler, and they have open burners which I understand are probably preferable. I am also a bit concerned about how much heat these will emanate into my kitchen.

Option B is a 36" Aga Legacy which is a vintage look (to go with my vintage type kitchen) and is completely different from Option A. It would give me more space on top to cook, and is dual fuel with multiple small ovens. In some ways the choice of using a smaller oven is probably a wise choice for two people. The burners are sealed (not my first choice, but I could live with this as a tradeoff). It has five burners-- two 9,200, one 5K, one 15K, and one 12K. The ovens suposedly work really well as does the broiler.

We are empty nesters but do cook a couple times a month for about ten people. I consider myself definitely an above average cook, but I am by no means a foodie or someone who is constantly turning out four course gourmet meals. We aren't huge meat eaters so aren't constantly broiling or cooking huge slabs of meat. I like to do some stir fries sometime, but never having had anything very powerful I don't know what that would be like. And, it isn't as though I'd be woking several times a week. I used to bake a lot more than I do now, and don't know if I'll get back to that too much since if I bake it I eat it (something that isn't good for my weight).

I want a color range because liking the looks of my kitchen is important to me too. I have been following many posts both here and at gardenweb about various brands. If you were in my shoes, would you opt for the 30" that is more powerful (that I am not 100% convinced I need the firepower on) or the larger 36" with the more spacious rangetop? Price is a factor but not the driving force here. The floor model Aga Legacy falls between the more pricey Bluestar and the American which would be a couple hundred less than the Legacy.

These are our final choices and we are not going to look at the more pricey 36" Bluestar or AR.

Thanks for your help.

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  1. Nobody "needs" a Bluestar,AR Performer Series,or an Aga Legacy.

    A $400 Frigidaire range will turn raw food into cooked food.

    Everyone can use the power of a top notch powerful burner. From searing ,sauteing,woking,boiling water, quickly recovering temperature after dropping cold food into hot pan.For some dishes this power is irrelevant but for some it will give you significantly better results.

    You can always turn down the 22-25K btu burners to 5-15k btu and the heat they put into your kitchen but you can't turn a 15k btu burner past its max to 22-25k btu.

    I would get the BS/AR range and a countertop oven like the Breville Smart Oven or the Cadco Quarter Oven for the small jobs. That is not a lot more money for the best of both worlds.

    1. Dee--

      Thanks for the input. Yes, I realize no one really needs one of these, and I also realize I am caught up in the hype of high-end range marketing. But, if I am going to make the investment and I'll be living with this decision for a long time, I really want to make sure I have considered everything.

      That is why I am debating if for me I'd benefit from having the larger rangetop space or the more powerful burner with less width on the rangetop.

      1. Sounds like you're leaning towards the Aga, but are worried that you're giving up the power that many covet. You probably don't need it. I cook a lot of Chinese food, so I'd be tempted by the Bluestar, but for you I'd go with the Aga.

        1. What a fine dilemma you have! You don't indicate how you use the ovens. If you bake a lot, make sure the Aga's space works for your tasks. Even if you only make a few batches of cookies, you need to make sure the oven space will fit your needs.

          If you're not concerned about cooktop BTUs, go with the Aga, which seems to be the direction you're headed based on your post. I'm personally not a fan of burners with dedicated power but that's my style.

          1. Thanks for the thoughts; it helps a lot.

            I am really trying to sort out which would serve me better. The larger 36" of the Aga rangetop would give me more space to move things around on the stove. But, when I was doing my research I decided I really would like open burners; this is something I'd be giving up with the Aga, and I do wonder how much having the close burner over the open really cuts down on cooking power. .Or, would I be better off with the smaller 30" that has the more powerful burners? I know so mamy people say to make sure you can get the most powerful burners you can. So, that is one of the reasons I am asking this question because I know there is no one-size-fits-all solution for everyone. Actually, all of these choices I am looking at have different burners with different sizes rather than all four being the same capacity. I am not so worried about things like making cookies with the smaller Aga ovens because I also have a wall oven.

            I guess I should also say this is natural gas not propane.

            2 Replies
            1. re: juliest

              I have cooked on both in several old client's kitchens.I like both,so two questions

              How does it feel to you moving things around the top of each,heavy pans etc?To me 5'10" tall they are very different in the physical sense,again I like both.

              How do you use an oven?Interior size and racks are very different in your two choices.
              Hope this helps

              1. re: juliest

                The amount of power has nothing to do with closed or open burners. It has to do with the BTU rating, which is the amount of heat produced. Thermador makes a 22K sealed burner. If you like the AGA, you can use cast iron to get a really hot surface if you need it. It holds heat and if you preheat it long enough, it will be plenty hot. My initial choices on my last go around were Bluestar and Heartland Legacy but I ended up with a Wolf DF because I liked the oven. The 16K burners have been plenty of heat for me and idea that the flames go around a pot are silliness unless you have 5 inch pots and have the heat on high, but this would be true of almost any burner. We didn't choose the Heartland because the dealer was discouraging. The Heartland Legacy is no longer made and I actually saw a blue one a few years ago at a Homegoods for 1/2 price. There were some issues with BS that eliminated it for us. Good Luck with your choice.

              2. I'm a Homegoods shopper too, but a range....That is something I have never seen there before!

                lcool--I'm only 5'4", so much shorter than you are. I guess I actually felt there would be more room to move things around (and a place to put something just out of the oven) with the Aga cooktop. That is one of the attractions.

                It was the Legacy you used in a client's kitchen? It is good to know you liked both that and the Bluestar. At this point I am perhaps thinking of the American Range rather than the Bluestar because it is at a lower price point for pretty similar things.

                wekick--I am no longer a huge baker (I used to do a lot of cookies and things like that) and we use our oven primarily for roasting or baking meals for the two of us. I'll occasionally do quick breads and never do yeast breads. Actually I just came back from Costco with a new Kirkland roasting pan, and I didn't even think about whether it would fit in the Aga's oven since I know it will fit in my standard wall oven.

                Since we are replacing a JennAir downdraft with the grill that we actually use periodically, I'd be using the grill for some broiling. But, we are probably more likely to broil fish or chicken breasts of shrimp than huge slabs of meat. And, I do still have a wall oven too.

                16K have been plenty of BTUs for you. that is good to hear.

                Thanks for all the help again!

                1. When looking at comparisons between my two choices, I have a question about broiling. Both the Bluestar and the AR Performer have a 15K or 16K ceramic infrared broiler, while the Aga Legacy has a small, dedicated 2,300 watt broiling compartment with the electric element very, very close to the (non-adjustable) shelf. And, one of the regular oven compartments also has convection broil with top only fan forced air. This regular oven part sounds quite similar to the standard set-up and what I have in my current dual fuel range.

                  Is a ceramic, gas, infrared broiler truly capable of producing excellent/superior results? Now we are wondering how much this should come into play in our decision since we do use the grill on our JennAir a couple times a month in the winter and would be looking for a really good broiler to replace the grill option.

                  Thanks again.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: juliest

                    When I was on a redo four years ago This is what my list narrowed to for All Gas,LPG from the factory.I did not want duel fuel because wall ovens were in the plan.I was on the hunt for 2 48" to live back to back as an island replacing a 60" Vulcan w/spit & salamandre that was retired to an outside kitchen.I wanted quality and ease of cleaning,not colour.

                    At 48" BlueStar,American and Capital lost me after a lifetime, because of the cleaning issues,rack slides etc as did Bertzzoni .There is one of each somewhere in the family.

                    Capital Culinarian,Bertazzoni,Thermadore,Wolf,Bluestar,
                    American all made my list and I settled on Thermadore and Wolf.With a semi retired Vulcan,two wall ovens in the loop,a peerless service tech if needed,and absolutely fed up with serious cleaning done by me.I wanted grates to fit in the dishwasher,self clean oven etc.
                    After years of Vulcan,Capital and American I knew the oven,broiler difference was important so I carried some key pans with me to the showroom and tested what would or would not slide and turn around in the oven with one or two hands.That effort eliminated many brands instantly.
                    At 5'4" I think you would do well to go slide stuff around,on and in.Maybe thinking about what is going to better for you and exhaust needed

                  2. Thanks for the helpful suggestions. I did take some pans to try out the size of their ovens in the Aga, but I didn’t take any pans to try to move around the tops of the ranges. I’ll have to do that.

                    Cleaning is definitely a concern of mine too (espeically as I am almost of retirement age), but it sounds as though you’ve had to do a lot more of this than I have since you have had so many huge stoves. I’ve had a self-cleaning oven for twenty years and so am used to just turning it on and then wiping out the ash the next morning (we do it at night because the stench is so bad). Knowing I’ll be sacrificing this is in any of my choices.

                    I’ve read that cleaning up the Bluestar top can be kind of putzy, and the all cast iron can be prone to rusting no matter how careful one is. But, it does have that nice glide rack the others don’t have.

                    The American Range has burners that the rep told me he cleans buy just stacking one upside down on top of the other and then heating them up. I don’t know about the grates and whether they can go in the dishwasher. The part under the burners and grates is a black enameled tray that can be removed and put in the dishwasher, so this is nice.

                    The Aga has a black enameled porcelain top that needs to be wiped down right there, but the enameled cast iron grates (though good sized) can be removed to go in the dishwasher.

                    So, none of them are perfect in any way, and there are also other tradeoffs than the bigger BTUs vs. the smaller rangetop that I originally asked about. That has been one of our dilemmas in this entire process. We haven’t seen anything that has really said to us this is the one for us.
                    lcool--I was a bit confused, did you end up with the Wolf or the Thermador for your range? And, are you happy with your choice?

                    Exhausting for us in another related issue. I am assuming we could get by with less for an exhaust system if we decided on the lower powered Legacy rather than the super powerful more commercial ranges.

                    And, is a gas ceramic broiler definitely preferable to the electric coil the Aga has?

                    Once again, thanks for taking the time to reply.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: juliest

                      Wolf - Thermador it is one each,2 ranges back to back as an 8' island.Both with free standing "island" caps for the ovens with a 60" hood over top.
                      Very happy with each.
                      The retirement age thing,me 67,is why I went this direction and two wall ovens,which were a decision finalized 2 years after the ranges.

                      Stack the burners to clean is the way to go.As for me,all grates go in the dishwasher with caveats,#1 1/2 soap,#2 CANCEL heated dry ,#3 "light wash" setting and get them out nearly right away.I have been getting away with this for years.

                    2. Once again, thanks much for the great tips. Wow, lcool! With that type of set-up you must be able to cook for some really huge groups! Incredible having that much cooking equipment.